Giants wide receiver Steve Smith celebrates a touchdown catch against...

Giants wide receiver Steve Smith celebrates a touchdown catch against the Cowboys. (Oct. 25, 2010) Credit: AP

After meeting with the Giants and being examined by the team's medical staff in recent days, no one should be surprised that free-agent receiver Steve Smith has signed a one-year contract.

Except for one minor detail: It's with the Eagles and not with the Giants.

That "long haul" that Tom Coughlin described as Smith's return to the NFL? Turns out it was just a short drive down the New Jersey Turnpike. Smith has flown the coop to the most intense rival the Giants have, the latest and perhaps most personal addition to Philadelphia's roster that is sending ripples throughout the NFC East.

Smith's deal is worth $4 million with $2 million guaranteed, according to his agent, Ben Dogra. In a conference call Wednesday night Smith said he did not believe the Giants could have matched that.

"This is a business, man, and it's tough," Smith said. "I don't feel disrespected. The Eagles, they really pushed hard. They did show a great interest in me."

On his Facebook page, however, Smith was a little more forthcoming.

"This was obviously not an easy decision for me or something I ever expected," he wrote, "but unfortunately the business aspect proved that the Eagles wanted me to be part of their organization MUCH more than the Giants did."

Translation: The Giants once again came up short bidding against a rival just as they did with Barry Cofield going to the Redskins and Plaxico Burress going to the Jets. This time, the Eagles were the team to swoop in and outspend the Giants.

"Like I've said many times before, [general manager] Howie Roseman and I are always keeping our eyes open for good football players and players that we think can help our football team win," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "Steve Smith certainly fits that category. He's a Pro Bowl-quality receiver that we will work into our offense as soon as he is ready to go."

Smith is still recovering from microfracture knee surgery. Yesterday Coughlin said the team had a good meeting with Smith, but said that the receiver still faced "a long haul" to return to his Pro Bowl form.

"As far as I know it's August and he's got a ways to go," Coughlin said.

The Eagles and Smith think differently. "Maybe Coughlin had a plan up his sleeve when he said that," Smith said. "But I got checked out by both teams' doctors and got positive reports."

Smith wouldn't say when he plans on returning, but said he is eager to get back on the field. "I've got to be realistic," he said, but he also did not rule out being ready for the opener. The Giants face the Eagles in Philadelphia in Week 3.

In 2009, his best season for the Giants, Smith caught 107 passes for 1,220 yards. Last year in nine games he had 48 catches for 529 yards. In his four years with the Giants, the former second-round pick totaled 220 catches for 11 touchdowns. As a rookie, he made a key third-down catch on the Super Bowl-winning drive sandwiched between David Tyree's iconic grab and Burress' touchdown.

Smith's return seemed to be a fait accompli. The Giants made him an offer early in free agency and it appeared the sides were simply waiting for medical tests before engaging in actual negotiations. But Smith said the Eagles had been in contact with him "pretty diligently for weeks now."

"We were waiting and waiting [for the Giants]," he added.

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